August 4, 2017

1948. A New Year for Berlin

The Most Important Stories to Come Out of Germany in 1948
British and American personnel at the traffic control point in Faßberg during the Berlin airlift, 1948 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

December 31, 1948

This is the day when all the pundits review the past year and make forecasts for the coming twelve months.

However, the men of the airlift are skipping the fancy phrases and right now are out to set a record. The 100-thousandth Vittles plane to fly over the Russian blockade arrived at the new Tegel airport this morning—a C-54 carrying coal.

And if the weather holds today and tomorrow, the airlift is almost certain to set a new weekly record, delivering more than 40,000 tons of food and supplies into this blockaded city. The former seven-day record was 38,000 tons.

To wind up the 52nd week of 1948 with an airlift delivery record will be a fact more eloquent than all the words in the world underlining American determination to see this thing through.

However, from both sides of the Iron Curtain today we have official assessments of the accomplishments of the past year. The official Soviet newspaper, Tägliche Rundschau, says that 1948 produced many defeats for reaction. The Communist victories in China are termed the most important international event of the year. Second was ranked the defeat of Dewey. The newspaper says that "those who hoped for war in 1949 were disappointed. Truman wants peace with the USSR."

About the German question, the Rundschau charges that the West split Germany and Berlin. This policy, it says, demands the immediate founding of an all-German government, the signing of a German peace treaty, and all occupation troops withdrawing one year after the signing of the treaty.

From the Western side, the American, British, and French commanders for Berlin hail the closing year as a period of victory for the Berlin population.

There will be a number of parties among the American colony tonight to see the New Year in. Berliners will get an extra ration of electricity. The lights will stay on until 1 AM.

But there will be no celebrating on the airlift. They have a record to set.

This is Bill Downs saying Happy New Year from Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

January 2, 1949

Germany produced more than its share of news last year. And with all the unfinished international business on hand, she looks like being a major news source again in 1949.

A group of foreign correspondents here in Berlin were sitting around the other night seeing the New Year in, and we made up our own list of the ten biggest stories to come out of this conquered nation during the past twelve months.

First, of course, is the Berlin Blockade. Then we agreed that the airlift was the second biggest story. The third ranking story, after some argument, was the American currency reform and the resultant increase in production and reconstruction in the Western zones.

The next ranking story in our unofficial ten-best for 1948 is the Western Power decision to go ahead with a Western German government at the Bonn constitutional convention. Fifth was the Berlin elections and the 85 percent turnout despite the Communist campaign against them. Next in line was the establishment of an East Berlin government.

There was a lot of discussion as to how to rank the establishment of the Ruhr Authority. The story is a complex one and not as sensational as most, but in the long-term view of events it probably deserves a classification in the first five most important stories to come out of Germany in 1948.

The next biggest story, we agreed, was the Ludwigshafen explosion last July in which more than two hundred German workers lost their lives. Then came the protest meeting of a quarter of a million Berliners at the Reichstag and the shootings that followed. And finally, the commutation of the Ilse Koch sentence ends the list.

It is dangerous to make predictions, but in the coming year you can watch for an intensification of the Soviet campaign to sign a German peace treaty and press for withdrawal of all occupation troops. There may be another economic crisis in the Western zones of Germany, because despite our currency reform, the cost of living still is rising and workers are restive. Creation of a Western German government might also precipitate a political crisis in the West.

And the airlift will go on. How long? No one will dare to predict that.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.